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Griffin Bar, Tuesday 17 July

The Nötts Quartet are made up of four players who are either at, or just finished at, music colleges throughout the UK. Bass player Brodie Jarvie is the best known here, and there are a couple of other locals in Declan Forde (keyboards, studying at Leeds) and Matthew Herd (soprano and alto sax, based in London). Steve Hanley, a drummer from Leeds, is the fourth member.

They played a couple of long unbroken sets, with one piece seguing into another. I thought the first half worked particularly well, with the numbers flowing seamlessly into each other. It was a bit reminiscent of In a Silent Way period Miles, no doubt partly due to Declan Forde using an electric piano. This was apparently a late decision, down to the Griffin – an admirable venue in many other ways – not having a piano of its own. The second half, which had more of a contemporary post-bop feel, didn’t hang together quite so well. It was more obviously a set of different tunes linked by improvisations, whereas it was possible to view the earlier part of the evening as one long multi-section piece.

The playing, both individually and collectively, was excellent. Forde’s use of an electronic keyboard might have been forced on him, but he managed to get it to sound like an instrument in its own right, not just a poor substitute for a normal piano. Herd played interesting lines throughout. Although his reputation is mainly as an alto player, I was particularly taken by his soprano work. Jarvie and Hanley not only provided a good foundation for their colleagues, but both provided some excellent improvisations of their own. They even managed to make an extended bass and drums duet interesting.

If they’d one flaw, it’s that their improvising skills struck me as being better than their compositions. But that’s a minor quibble. They’re definitely a band I’d like to hear again in the future. They were already sounding like a unit, not just four individuals, and I suspect they’ll get even better once they’ve played together longer.

I don’t know the significance of the umlaut in the band’s name, or even how you pronounce it (Noats? Nuts?), but it’s definitely Nötts, not Notts. Is the heavy metal umlaut spreading to jazz?

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